Jordan Peterson: Career vs. Motherhood

Jordan Peterson: quite controversial a figure. I do find many of his talks and explanations thoroughly insightful.

Yes, I also scrolled down to the comments section for this one. Here is one comment that particularly stood out to me:

“Modern feminism has really been a punch in the gut to me. Raising children is not the honour it needs to be. I always felt that I was a burden even though my husband and family never made me feel that way. Grew up with a hardworking stay-at-home mom. When I went to work, the guilt and inability to juggle it all was unbearable. My family was not priority according to my work. I hope a new feminism brings back the mystery of women, the value of femininity and the strength of it in its own right. Also the value and the strength of masculinity.”

What matters? One’s health and wellbeing matter. One’s family. If you choose to work, your work may matter to you. Some people only partake in economic labour because they must, while others really only partake in it as a hobby thing: an enjoyable and productive way to pass time.

Some women get extremely bored and unhappy when they stay at home. Some women become extremely unwell when they commit to carrying out high-demand economic labour roles.

The most crucial considerations, I think, ought to be: what is truly, holistically good – best – for you? For the people you most deeply care about? For your Deen?

What ought not to play such a significant role: Mere appearances. What other (no offence, but for-the-most-part-irrelevant) people think. These people… will almost undoubtedly always be thoughtlessly ‘thinking’ things.

“She doesn’t work and only stays at home? Why doesn’t she do something useful with her life?”

“She’s only a pharmacist? Why isn’t she a doctor?”

“She works all day and sends her children to daycare?! How pitiable!”

“She earns more than her husband does? Ha!”

“Her husband’s an engineer and she doesn’t work? He should’ve married someone more educated!”

“Why is she tired all the time? Surely it isn’t that hard to have two young children and have a high-flying career?”

“Why can’t she go to work all day and clean the entire house top-to-bottom every day, by herself?”

“How dare she have her own opinions? The insolence! I should never have let my son marry her! She should just keep her mouth shut and cook and clean and say ‘Yes ma’am, whatever you say ma’am’ to everything I say!”

These busybodies, so violent with their words, necessarily a) only see the outermost parts of things, and b) have committed themselves to identifying the perceived negatives in lieu of the positives, so as to soothe themselves, and so as to entertain themselves through gossip. Have no fear, though: all they are really doing is depleting their own Ajr-ic [this should be a word. i.e. relating to Ajr] reservoirs, while contributing to their victims’…

You face your own reality. You know what it is like to be you.

The truth is, when you choose one thing, you necessarily forgo its alternatives. Life, and all of its various aspects: blessings and tests. Necessary upsides and downsides, to each part of it. You inherit a ‘good’ thing: you also inherit its unique ‘downsides’. Mutatis mutandis, ‘bad’ or difficult things, and their unique perks and ‘upsides’.

Ours is a world that finds itself marred by crises: of home; of family; of loneliness and hyper-‘individuality’. Of meaning; of mental wellbeing. It is also true: sacred things like marriage and motherhood are generally no longer looked upon with due sanctity and honour.

In any case, you are a being whose (limited) wealth is time. And health and energy; the ultimately finite amounts of attention you can give to different things. Family. Talents, skills, interests. Allah is Al-Mālik, and

you get to figure out what might be holistically best for you. Seek His guidance: sometimes certain things, decisions and such, may be hard, but

We submit to the Creator, and not to (the fleeting, incomplete, and often-exaggerated takes of) creation. Your life. Between you and your Lord, and also concerning the people whom you love.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021

“Should Muslim Women Work?”

Assalamu ‘alaikum folks,

I hope you are well. I just wanted to share this video – a stream by ‘Muslim Skeptic’ Daniel Haqiqatjou and his (ridiculously cool, Allahummabārik laha) wife – which I found absolutely fascinating. Gender, Islamic principles, modern notions surrounding feminism and liberalism, ‘work’ and ‘worth’, and more…

I personally do agree with the bulk of what has been said. But, even if you are not Muslim, and/or fundamentally disagree with Islamic takes on gender roles and their sacred value, I can almost assure you that you, too, will find this video very interesting indeed. Educational, certainly. Watch it in order to challenge your current perspectives, may-haps…

The world of ‘modernity’, as we know it, is sort of a mess. Ideas pertaining to what human beings are; what life is for. There is, underlying all this, a deep and wealthy history of reasons as to why things today are (or, seem) the way they are.

And, even in spite of such things as the detrimental high pressures that we are faced with, courtesy of the ways (I would say, ills) of modernity: we are still human beings, at the end of it all. Human men; human women. Created by Allah. Allah knows us best, and these sacred laws are certainly not without reason.

Have a watch – or, rather, a listen – to the video, Insha Allah. [Perhaps, since it is rather lengthy, you may wish to view it in chunks.]

Personally, I find it essentially and authentically liberating that, in terms of economic work – partaking in economic labour – this is not an obligation upon me, Islamically. Yet, it is something I may do, if it is good; if I enjoy doing it, and want to do it. Teaching, writing, for example: I do so enjoy doing these things, Alhamdulillah.

I think: men are men, and women are women. We are both human; we have numerous similarities between us. However, man’s nature is essentially masculine. A masculine essence, if you will. While woman’s nature is essentially feminine.

I have definitely fallen prey to the whole ‘careerist’ ideology, before. And, to the whole ‘I need to be more like men in order to be ‘liberated”, ‘Yasss queen’, mentality. These ideas are ubiquitous, so it would seem. Even quite a few of the girls I currently teach argue bitterly and vehemently that “men are trash”; that they will ‘get rich’ and ‘be independent’, all on their own.

The ‘social sciences’. There is no better way to deeply understand ourselves — humanity: in groups, and as individuals, than as tethered to Al-Haqq (Truth). Allah fashioned us – every atom, every molecule, every hormone, everything within us that facilitates thought and reason; from which social (including political) structures arise. He also authored Al-Qur’an; sent Muhammad (SAW) as our main Example, to be followed.

As Muslims, we know that men are men. With their own Divinely-ordained essences, and rights as well as responsibilities. Same with women. And men are to honour their womenfolk in a particular, tailored way, whilst women are to respect their menfolk in a particular way.

Women and men. The Qur’an elucidates that we are spiritually equal [see: Qur’an, (33:35)]. And, in terms of nature and certain gender-specific things that are asked of us, also different. It is not ‘oppression’ for something to be different to another.

In the ‘world of modernity’, where Religion is done away with as a central consideration: other things are brought into central view, as attempted substitutes. The ‘Economy’, if you will, as well as social status, which serves as being ancillary, almost, to this first ‘god’.

Whereas we Muslims are to find the Meaning of Life, as well as the very core of our identities in Islam: ‘modernity‘ enjoins individuals to ‘find meaning’ through economic work; this is where people are expected to ‘find themselves‘, too.

School. At school, I think, I had been, and children are being, strongly inculcated with this primarily ‘Economic’, careerist mentality. See, man is, by nature, a slavish creature. Whom – or What – is it that we currently find ourselves primarily serving, or seeking to serve?

When I was twelve, I identified as a ‘feminist’, and wanted to be an engineer. Not really as a result of any deep, true passion for engineering. More so… as a result of the whole ‘Prove People Wrong’, ‘Break the Glass Ceiling!’ mentality. I compared myself to my same-age cousin. Why would my aunts ask him to carry out this DIY task, or that one (for example)? Why not I?!

And now, I think I understand these things better. Life is not ‘easy’ for men, while being inordinately ‘hard’ for women, by comparison. They (men) have their rights as well as their responsibilities – and their struggles (some, gender-specific. Others, simply broadly human). And we women have ours.

The fact that this cousin of mine, at age twenty, for instance, is partially (truly) responsible for the financial upkeep of his household; driving his siblings to various places daily because he has to, while keeping two jobs and studying for a degree. It is a lot; I am proud of him.

And we could be reactionary, yelling: “How come men get to…”, “How come women have to…” and more. Or, we could (realistically) come to the conclusion that (when addressing the gender-specific realm of things) men have their own blessings and challenges. Rights, and responsibilities. Strengths and weaknesses. Azwāja. Strengths: a particular type of practical intelligence, for example. Thriving as a result of competition, too, perhaps. We women have ours. [Emotional intelligence 100. The urge to – and the talent with which – we are able to make places more homely. Have you ever seen a male-dominated workplace, in contrast with a female-dominated one? Or, male bedrooms in contrast with female ones? The differences are quite self-evident.]

These, though there are great [I hate to sound like some pompous academic here or something, but] nuances between individual people [one woman’s individual expression of femininity will likely look at least a little different from that of the next woman. One man may be completely different, compared to another man. But if you were to group all men, and all women, together, and compared between the two groups: here, perhaps, the differing essences would make themselves far more apparent]

I am just so glad that I can (finally) sink into my essence[s] more, now. Careerism, truth be told, stresses me out. I love teaching and writing; they are passions of mine. But my primary worldly ‘goal’, if anything, really is to have and to run and to keep, if I may, a wonderful home – a good little world of our own – Insha Allah.

I recently came across an anecdotal story about how a (formerly, non-Muslim) police officer – female – who had been stationed in East London, ended up converting to Islam, as a result of watching some of the Muslim families. Going from praying Jummah at the mosque, to eating out at the nearby restaurants; having an authentically good time, together.

The individualistic, atomistic, mainly economic-productivity-driven ways of ‘modernity’: they run antithetical to the fundamental callings of our souls, and, quite often: they leave us spiritually starving.

The Fitrah, my dudes: the Fitrah, deep within you, already knows where it’s at. Religion. Family. Fulfilment, Meaning. Strength. Due rights, and due responsibilities.

And I have been thinking: would it be a ‘waste’ of my human ‘potential’ if I were to continue to not absolutely prioritise economic work, in terms of my life-based considerations? The answer, as I have concluded, is no: not at all. I lose nothing if I work part-time, instead of full-time, for example. I lose nothing if ‘climbing up the career ladder’ is not a central goal of mine. In fact, I gain. More of my humanity. Lessened feelings of stress and exhaustion; a more ‘filled cup’, to give from. To those who deserve; have rights to, even, the ‘best’ of me.

I realise: ‘modernity’ would enjoin me to believe that some things are simply not ‘enough’. It is not ‘enough’ that I am teaching Year Sevens and Eights, for example; maybe it would be ‘enough’ if I were to be, someday, a lecturer at a university, or something. I have certainly been susceptible to being overtaken by these modes of thinking, before. That, for example, in order for my writings to be ‘more meaningful’, I need to work on publishing a book.

The truth is: these Year Sevens and Eights are just as valuable as human beings, as university students, or something. Also, I can achieve as much Khayr from publishing blog articles, as I can, perhaps, as a result of writing a book. I choose to consider the ‘spiritual’ value of things first, Insha Allah.

In Islam, there is this Qur’anic idea that “whoever saves one soul, it is as if he has saved mankind entirely.” [Qur’an, (5:32)]. Subhan Allah, how liberating. In Islam, it is not the ‘numerical outcomes’ of our actions, which ‘count’. It is the spiritual weight of them, stemming from the intentions underlying them. Therefore, if I aim to impart some good unto just one human being (a family member, a friend, maybe) perhaps this would be equal to imparting some good unto a hundred, or even a million, human beings. Ultimately, we are responsible for the intentions underlying our actions, as well as the steps we may take, with those intentions in mind; while Allah is in control of their outcomes.

I think it is quite common for many people my age to have a bit of that “we-need-to-save-the-world” impulse, within us. How lovely this is. However, first and foremost, it is my own (relatively small) world that requires my due attentions.

I wish to not put economic considerations first. I also do not want to put otherwise-social (i.e. the fleeting opinions of every man, woman, and child I have ever had the pleasure of being acquainted with) considerations, first. When you put Islam first, though some things may prove somewhat difficult, in the short-run: ultimate goodness (lasting, liberation, fulfilment, deep love) surely ensue.

Some are out, in this world, seeking ‘gold’. Others are out there, seeking ‘glory’. We Muslims, however: it is goodness that we ought to strive for; it is God whose countenance we strive to seek.

The video: I would really love to know what you thought of it. Anything you would like to share: please comment down below, or send me an email at: hello@sincerelysadia.blog


With Salaam, Sadia, 2020

‘Self-love’ (?)

“Love yourself.”

This contemporary concept of ‘self-love’. Admittedly, an idea that had sat fairly well with me, in the past. I did not really think much of it at first: I mean, what, exactly, about the notion of ‘loving oneself’ (and not relying on another to ‘give [you] love’) could be faulted?

Well — the truth is, as much as we can find ourselves in denial about our true natures and how it is we actually operate — we do, from the very onsets of our social developments (i.e. during infancy) rely on those around us (those whom we come to trust, and instinctively look towards, for validation) to tell us who we are, and to inform us about such things as how we fit into the world. To love us: to look at us, in our truths and in our entireties, and to smile upon us, through and for it all.

Of course, the onus of this process is initially (thrust) upon our primary caregivers, and then the responsibility begins to branch outwards, towards our extended family members, followed by our teachers, and the friends we make at school. The friends we make later on in life; our other peers, our romantic partners, our bosses at work. Through these bonds, we seek out validation, personal orientation, comfort, belonging. And what we may term ‘self-esteem’ (defined as: being content with, having faith in, one’s own worth, character, and abilities) is something that is very much socially informed, in us. It is, essentially, an ‘inside’ thing instilled in us by ‘outside’ people and factors; it is simply not something that we can genuinely self-generate, and subsequently ‘give’ to ourselves.

“Love yourself,” as we are habitually instructed to do. And, more often than not, this, in a distinctively consumerist manner. ‘Love yourself’ enough to… splurge on dresses, on jewellery, on a new car. “Treat yourself,” in such ways, thereby proving, making known, the abundant amounts of ‘self-love’ you possess. Whisper those ‘affirmations’ to yourself in the mirror every morning.

“I am beautiful. And intelligent. And awesome!

Somewhere in the distant background, wedding bells are ringing. A bride, all dressed in white, emerges from the place of her recent espousal. But, oh… there is no bridegroom to be seen, here.

Nay, for this has been a ‘sologamous’ marriage: the woman in question has married none other than… herself. Believe it or not, ‘sologamy’ is a practice that has been carried out by many across the West. And, indeed, the ‘self-marriage’ industry is one that is growing; the practice of ‘officialising self-love’ in such a manner is becoming increasingly popular, in particular among more affluent women.

These ‘self-partnered’ brides are known to dress themselves up, invite over their friends and family members (sometimes to a hired venue, and sometimes to their own homes), and then vow to themselves, that they will ‘love theirselves‘ eternally; that no man needs to ‘give’ them something they are purportedly adequately equipped to ‘self-administer’.

A rather ‘twenty-first century’ sort of matrimony, this. With some noble underlying intentions, perhaps. And, yet… the whole practice is arguably somewhat… narcissistic, no?

One ‘sologamous’ bride, New York-based performance artist Gabrielle Penabaz, claims that these symbolic self-wedding ceremonies are “usually very cathartic” and are “all about self-love”.

Indeed, many of the people (especially women) who have chosen to undergo these ceremonies had, unfortunately, been victims of abuse in previous relationships. And so, these functions may be perceived, by them, as being a means, or a symbolic statement, of self-empowerment: a bold, ‘feminist’ declaration of sorts. Many ‘self-brides’ promise, in the presence of their wedding guests, to ‘forgive [themselves]’, and to stop thinking of themselves as being “ugly” or otherwise ‘unworthy’.

But, at what point do such strides towards ‘self-love’ (or, perhaps, repairing otherwise compromised levels of self-esteem) deliquesce into what we might look upon as being… narcissistic?

‘Narcissism’: vanity. Excessive pride in one’s own image — in one’s physical appearance, abilities, and/or ‘worth’ [but, just what should the parameters be, for what is to be seen as being ‘excessive’?].

Some theorise that narcissistic tendencies always, ironically, stem from places of insecurity: if a person thinks himself inadequate in a particular regard, he may seek to ‘overcompensate’ somehow, whether in the very area in question, or within some alternative area.

Some (Freudian) theorists maintain that, for example, those who demonstrate distinctively arrogant tendencies at school or work (e.g. rudeness towards others; speaking ‘down’ on their peers) tend to be, whether consciously or not, behaving in such ways so as to defend their egos; they are, according to this line of thought, attempting to ‘overcompensate’ for, usually, personal feelings of sexual inadequacy…

What do you think? Do narcissistic tendencies always stem from places of perceived inadequacy… or do some people truly, from their cores, believe that they are ‘special’, and inherently ‘better than’ others?

Almost inarguably, we do all seek to have good levels of confidence — self-esteem. But, as previously indicated, the parameters we have collectively put in place with regard to these definitions can oft prove to actually be rather… blurry, messy. A key reason for this is because, as with many things in the field of (the more ‘philosophical’, theoretical, social sides of) Psychology, whatever may be seen as being more desirable (or the opposite) is very much contingent on the underlying world-views we choose to adopt, and their associated considerations.

For example, the philosophies of ‘modernity’ (which, generally, is yoked to a secular, a-spiritual, materialistic world-view) may include things like moderately sustained, direct eye contact, and speaking ‘assertively’, in its own parameters of how we may be able to assess desirable levels of self-esteem in ourselves and in others. But the Islamic view is more so that authentic self-esteem is to be found in the acceptance of one’s own humanity, as well as this of others. We Muslims are encouraged to observe modesty; to look down, more, and to speak with humility, gentleness. To wholly accept our intrinsic worth, but to not be ‘loud’, exultant, arrogant, with it.

And, for example, while, in ‘modernity’, a woman who shows more skin and who walks in a certain way is seen as being more ‘confident’ and those who cover themselves up are seen as being relatively more ‘insecure’, the argument could well be inverted: it could be argued that ‘true confidence’ does not necessitate beautifying oneself for as many people as possible to see. Indeed, it would appear to be a real issue among women — young and old — today: the inability to go outside without any makeup on, courtesy of such things as the insidious messages that the cosmetic industry inculcate us with on a daily basis. Some women now cannot even go outside without false lashes and other makeup products on; they are convinced that they look ‘ugly’ without them…

The principles underlying the Islamic view on feminine beauty can be broadened to explain the entirety of how we Muslims ought to look upon matters of self-esteem and such, methinks. Makeup, jewellery, and nice clothes are certainly not disallowed in Islam, but we are told to only display our ‘ornaments’ in the presence of women and male relatives (with some exceptions), while maintaining physical modesty whenever we are in public.

Validation and love should be — and must be (if we are to ensure and cultivate their emotional wellbeing) — actively and copiously granted to our girls (and, yes, boys) by family members. Because we do and will seek such things out, from fellow human beings. And, yes, when we fail to adequately validate our family members, our friends, our ‘wards’, with regard to the things that humans generally seek out validation for (beauty, intelligence, character and such) they will come to feel inadequate, and will likely look for validation in other places, through other avenues.

I think some Muslim families do get it rather wrong. They seem to be operating under the impression that, simply because there are these particular boundaries on things like cosmetics and feminine beauty, that their daughters and such should be prevented from using makeup products altogether. But, no: it is generally in the essence of a woman to enjoy adorning herself with beautiful things. A similar thing with Muslim men: it is generally in the nature of a man to enjoy gazing upon feminine beauty. But they must observe certain Islamic boundaries when it comes to this, in line with the Test of Life: to ‘lower [their] gaze[s]’ when it comes to women whom they are not married to.

In any case, blessings like physical beauty, intellectual capacities, material wealth and professional success: we Muslims do not — or, should not — look upon them as being wholly ‘personal’ achievements. These blessings are from Allah; the acknowledgement of this fact should aid us in being more confident in our self-worth, and more humble, too. And we ask of Him from His bounty; we ask for protection for our present blessings, too.

Now, a key facet of contemporary views on confidence would appear to be that if you are in possession of something good, you must make some sort of display of it before people: make it known. If you do not show it, make a show of it, do you really even have it, in the first place?

Although we are becoming increasingly desensitised to these things, I really think that the rap lyrics, the social media norms, of today are quite shameless, and they truly do much to bolster such attitudes. Boasting, filtering, directing the spotlight onto certain things: how much money one has, how many people one has slept with. Being sure to make these particular things known; sometimes insolence is peddled as being a merit — some sort of ‘right’ that the more ‘successful’ can exercise, over the less ‘successful’. At what point does ‘sharing’ shift into becoming ‘showing off’? My own view is that it is all about intention. One’s intentions can either be towards developing sincere (equal) connections, or… towards portraying oneself as being on some superior plane to others.

Of course, these days, many people are known to seek out an experience of love — or, a simulation of it — via the avenue of ‘fame’. Having as many people as possible see you, and give you — your talents and abilities, your physical beauty, your levels of ‘success’ — a series of standing ovations.

Earlier this year, I had carried out a survey asking a handful of questions to as many different people from as many different backgrounds and such as possible. One of the questions had been in relation to self-esteem. “What do you think most people dislike about themselves [and that acts as a barrier to their acquisition of the ‘Good Life’]?”

Most people had responded to this question with the theme of body image. Feeling like they are physically inadequate – ‘ugly’ – which can significantly affect one’s social confidence and subsequent wellbeing. ‘Modernity’ values ‘looks’ so much: and not just default (naturally human) looks. But how well we can manage to (through, yet again, our consumption of certain products) adhere to certain given ‘standards’. Particular ideas, popularised via powerful propaganda… Postcolonial conceptualisations of ‘what beauty (or, ideal masculine or feminine appearances) must be’, in addition to the power wielded by the multibillion pound cosmetic and ‘fitness’ industries today, have drastically affected the ways in which we have come to look at ourselves. We equate illusory cyborg snapshots and airbrushed constructions with looking ‘good’. And we absolutely also equate this (these versions of) looking ‘good’ with… intrinsic worth, unfortunately.

Second to considerations of outer appearances, in response to this particular survey question, most people commented on their perceived inadequacies in terms of their own abilities and talents. Academically, professionally. This is what modern mass-popularised hyper-competitive models inject us with: the idea that, in order to be worth something – worth anything at all, one must a) produce, or contribute to the production of, as much (economic) ‘output’ as possible and, b) do (and, therefore, ‘be’) better than others. The grand modern rat race: inextricably linked to highly individualistic, economic, (materialistic) notions of ‘success’. And ‘modernity’ tells us that if you are not ‘successful’ in the ways that they have outlined for you, well then, you are not really ‘worth’ much at all, are you?

Now, back to how we Muslims ought to view ‘self-worth’. When new babies are born, don’t we just know, instinctively, to cherish them, to honour their existences, purely on the bases of their… existences?! Self-explanatory, innate worth. They are alive, and human beings. Created, and not in vain, by our Supreme Creator. Fashioned in… awesomeness.

And, just like those former child versions of yourself, dear reader, in all that you are,

You matter immeasurably.

A living, breathing, moving, loving, thinking human being. What a thing!

I think we should learn to look upon fellow human beings – and ourselves – in such a vein. Looking upon ‘being’ as being the fountainhead of ‘worth’, value, as opposed to ‘doing’ (economic output, ‘productivity’, hyper-competition). Sometimes we humans do get sick; many of us will eventually become old and frail, too. Will our ‘worth’ as human beings decay as and when our abilities to ‘do’, do?

The core(s) of our level(s) of self-esteem should be… the core of we. Man: a brilliantly complex, gorgeously delicate, strong, athletic, sentient thing. The second layer of self-esteem, I personally think, ought to come from two things: one’s Deen (connection to Allah) and one’s personal character. May these be our constants, throughout life. All else should be tertiary considerations; they are susceptible to change. One can lose all of one’s money overnight; youthful beauty and strength begin to fade as old age arrives. If we attempt to root the core(s) of our levels of self-esteem in these particular variables, well then, how vulnerable to crumbling we are allowing our worth(s) as human beings to be.

Absolutely, I think we need to be far more open and giving, when it comes to offering love. And far less (pridefully) ‘unemotional’, resolute, avaricious. To get into the habit of truly treating others how we wish to be treated; to speak the beauty in others, which we see.

We do instinctively grow towards love. It is a responsibility upon us, to love others, and, yes, to trust in love when it is returned to you.

When you offer a fellow human being a loving word, a smile —

you help them bloom at least a tiny bit more. And the gravity of these particular social responsibilities upon us increases when it comes to people who may be suffering from low levels of self-esteem, which typically occurs when a person feels socially rejected, outcast somehow.

O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule [other] women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames.

— Qur’an, (49:11)

We need to, I think, exercise great care in our social interactions with, for example, ‘revert’ Muslims — new Muslims who may be struggling with feeling orientated and integrated within their new faith-based community; who are often disowned by their own family members as a result of making the decision to revert. And, towards people with severe disabilities (who tend to be, as my cousin puts it, “people of Jannah, walking on Earth”).

Muhammad (SAW), whom his wife ‘Aisha (RA) had referred to as being the walking embodiment of the Qur’an, had been in the habit of treating people — irrespective of whether they had been rich or poor, young or old, sick or healthy — with such importance. [He would, for example, travel to the furthest parts of Madinah to visit the sick, and sit with people to listen to their woes and worries.]

Unfortunately, these days people often resort to carrying out social calculations to determine which people are most ‘worth’ being good to, and which people are ‘not’. Some people are simply dismissed, seemingly invisible.

We, each of us, have at least some power in affecting another individual’s levels of self-esteem. People change people, whether for better, or for worse.

As Muslims, we are told that even a smile is an act of Sadaqah – charity. And, that we should express active, conscious kindness: to children, to our parents (especially when they reach old age), to our neighbours, to strangers. And, in a similar manner to Muhammad (SAW)’s, this should be in a sincere and conscious manner, and irrespective of factors such as class or race.

“Speak good [words], or remain silent.”

— Muhammad (SAW)

A substantial part of the character of a Muslim should be ‘Rahma’. Typically translated into English as ‘mercy’, the word ‘Rahm’ is actually derived from the word used to refer to a mother’s womb. ‘Rahma’: the way in which a mother cares for a child. The way in which a mother instinctively, freely, delicately and powerfully, loves and expresses her love for even her unborn child: a child that does not even really know her yet.

“Whoever is not caring/compassionate to others will not be treated with care/compassion [by Allah].” 

— Muhammad (SAW)

Muslims do not exactly subscribe to popular conceptualisations of ‘Karma’ (as, for example, a bad thing happening to a person does not necessarily mean that it is the eventual result of something bad that they themselves had done)… however, we do believe in ‘Ajr’.

“Is the reward for goodness anything but goodness?”

Qur’an, 55:60

There is no shame at all in accepting how social, dependent-on-others, we are. A man is not rendered any less ‘manly’ through his yearning, say, for a female companion; mutandis mutatis, women with men.

Yet another term in ‘social psychology’ whose parameters would appear to actually be quite muddy: the notion of ‘codependency’. ‘Excessive’ reliance on another, for validation. In offering love and goodness to our partners, friends and such — at what point can we safely say that their emotional needs from us are ‘too much’?

I guess it is understandable from both sides. On the one hand, it can prove to be quite emotionally draining, to be a person from whom high levels of emotional support are constantly sought. And, on the other hand, these ‘codependent’ individuals: it is rarely ever their own faults that they are deficient, on the love front.

And here is where the Islamic concept of ‘Sadaqah’ may come, strongly, into play. For us, we are essentially encouraged to live lives in which we seek to give (far) more than we seek to take. The term ‘Sadaqah’ (‘charity’ or ‘benevolence’) is derived from the Arabic term meaning, “he has spoken the truth”. Meaning, when we give, generously (from our time, our words, our wealth), to others without expecting anything in return from them, we are implicitly acknowledging the truth that Allah (SWT) is all-aware of our deeds. He will recompense us, in some way or another, whether in this world, or the other (more lasting) one.

“One does not attain [true] faith until one prefers for others what one chooses for oneself”

— Muhammad (SAW)

Some undeniable human truths, here: Adam needed Eve. Companionship, tranquility, and love, from her. And perhaps, by some ‘modern’ yardsticks, he may be seen as having been somewhat ‘codependent’. Some say that reliance on others for self-esteem is ‘pathetic’, perhaps. But to claim this would be to be in utter denial of what human nature really entails. Maternal love, paternal love, brotherly and sisterly love, love through friendship. Communal love, spousal love. We seek it out; we need it. Without it, or when given to us in non-nourishing forms, we find ourselves hungry. Feeling empty. And low in ‘self-esteem’, perhaps.

So if there comes to you, say: a relative or a friend whose wings are a little broken, as a result of being a victim of ongoing abuse… give them love. Generously, openly, outwardly, and without complaint (if you are able to). And know that your Ajr is with Allah (SWT). Know that you will never lose, by giving: Sadaqah does not decrease your wealth [Sahih Hadith]. Even from the secular perspective, we already know that volunteering tends to be encouraged, as a means of boosting feelings of positive self-regard and contentment, by giving to others.

We are wired to like ourselves (more) when we feel others — in particular, those closest to us — like us. This is a strong psychological need of ours, and also explains why fall-outs and such can result in such significant damage to our emotional wellbeing.

And we, each of us, are also in need of some sort of main secure base. ‘Home’. A particular individual who forms the crux of our social world. Without them, we are extremely prone to experiencing high levels of distress. In childhood, our ‘secure bases’ tend to be offered to us in the form of our mothers. In adulthood, this role tends to shift towards our romantic partners. We require close contact with them; affection, the allaying of our (inevitable) distresses.

It is typically when a person feels cut off from their ‘secure bases’ that they may begin to experience self-harming tendencies and suicidal inclinations…

And you are absolutely not weak if, say, your experiences of having been a victim of abuse (and, yes, even sustained indifference can be a form of abuse) have rendered your self-esteem — your cup of (to self-contradictorily utilise the term I have, multiple times in this article, already expressed a disdain towards) ‘self-love’ — lower than it should otherwise be, at present. This simply means that others — in particular, people you had strong bonds with, and thus deeply trusted, and who should have played, for you, the role of your ‘secure base’ — have failed to love you enough; have not done so in the right way. Perhaps, with you, they had been shockingly indifferent, negligent. Or, maybe, they had sought to belittle you, to make you easier to control and manipulate; perhaps in order to help themselves feel ‘bigger’, and ‘better’.

If this is you: if you find you have suffered at the hands of those who should have, really, watered you, I just want you to know that hope is absolutely not lost, for you; that you can certainly be re-watered; you may re-bloom… much like how rose plants do. Sometimes their buds and leaves wither and wilt for a while. But you, like they, can be revived. Through Allah’s Rahma, and through the vessels of his Rahma that may be with you, and/or await you, among creation.

True self-worth (or ‘self-love’, or whatever. Indeed, the labels we might ascribe to are far less important than what we are attaching it to) is reliant on those external sources of love that are deeply entwined with our souls. Divine love — Rahma — is what had brought you into being, in the first place. And the love(s) of our loved ones is what sustains us. Ultimately, it should be on the Divine category of love that we rely on the most, for it is He who is the supreme constant, while most else upon this Earth is fleeting and fundamentally changeable.

And true self-worth/-esteem/-love is rooted in just that: truth. Sincerity. Not in being taken by mere image-based projections, reflections, of ourselves (nor in how we may compare to others’ similar image-based projections). Nay, true acceptance and love may only be found when we come to accept the truths of we: Who it is who had created us, and why. How we are human: complete with our merits, and our flaws.

“You should be sincere to your brother in faith, be he present or absent.”

— Muhammad (SAW)

No human being is a mountain, although the people whom we might come to term as being ‘narcissists’ may think of themselves as — or, simply present themselves as being — such. Truthfully, we are not ditches, nor valleys, either, although abusive individuals, and the powerful forces of consumerist and hyper-competitive propaganda, may lead to your believing this.

So why don’t we learn to ground our levels of self-worth to a place beyond the skies?

A good amount of self-worth and self-esteem would, perhaps, entail our deep recognition of the fact that we, each of us, walk upon level ground. Beneath sky, and above earth. Created by the very same Creator. All from One.

“Behave like servants of Allah and as brethren in faith”

— Muhammad (SAW)

‘Narcissism’ is rooted in delusion. Arrogance, and coldness, a detachment from soul-centric warmth, while humility entails an acceptance of Truth, and of all its associated truths. Humility gives rise to warmth, and to flow states (internally, and between people) — and thus, to sincerity, and true connection.

Humankind. We are, undoubtedly, capable of magnificent feats – like the inventions of such things as aircraft and the internet, by the permission and the Rahma of our Creator. And also, each of us, princes and paupers alike, are susceptible to embarrassment. And to illness. Chained to biological callings; hooked to where it is that Time, by Allah’s commands, is taking us: death. And what will follow.

“In a world torn by rivalries and conflicts, polluted by discrimination and dehumanisation and tormented by terror and wars, the healing touch can come only from [the] re-establishment of the supremacy of [our] moral values [and the] promotion of compassion, brotherhood, fellow feeling, tolerance and graceful acceptance of each other as members of human fraternity. Hatred can only beget hatred. It is [only] love and grace that can heal [our] wounds and mend the fences.” 

— Khurshid Ahmad, Foreword to ‘Interpersonal Relations: An Islamic Perspective’

Concerning feelings of ‘worth’, there exists a spectrum, perhaps: from delusional over-confidence (which makes one feel they are superior to others, and behave accordingly) through to healthy levels of self-esteem, humility. But these may quickly descend into undesirably low levels of self-worth: the key defining feature of such maladies of self-esteem is when one thinks oneself unworthy of love.

And maybe you seek to attach ‘reasons’ to this feeling, brought on by, or at least intensified by, (current, or former) outer social circles and peer groups, ideas that are constantly (stealthily) touted by the media, etc. You are… ‘too weird’, or ‘too boring’. Not ‘handsome enough’; not ‘smart enough’; not ‘strong enough’. Something, this or that, perhaps ‘masculinity’ or ‘femininity’: you are not doing right at all. And this, in turn, somehow renders you, perhaps in a particular area, or maybe in all of them, ‘less worthy of love’.

If this happens to be the case with you, please know that you are worthy of love, exactly how you are. Sans comparing you to whomever you may find yourself comparing yourself to — be they siblings of yours, or celebrities — and in spite of what anyone may have said to you, to the contrary of this truth. Beginning from you, and ending there, too.

“And let not their speech grieve you. Indeed, [all] honour [due to power] belongs to Allah entirely. He is the Hearing, the Knowing.”

— Qur’an, 10:65

Here, I will rather shamelessly include (yet) another ‘Anne with an E’ reference. In the show, Anne absolutely despises her own “horrible hideous horrible” red hair. But why? Why does she hate such a… harmless (actually rather beautiful) feature of hers, with such fiery passion? Because she has been taught to do so, over time. First by the jeers of the girls at the orphanage; later by the subtle (and, sometimes openly insolent) insinuations and remarks of the adults around her. Red hair, according to them, is ‘ugly’, and quite undesirable, somehow; this is clearly a strongly culturally-ingrained idea of theirs, one they have seemingly passively accepted, and one they now actively contribute to the perpetuation of.

And yet, when Mr. Blythe opens the door to Anne and meets her for the first time, one of the first things he says to her, in earnest, is,

“What wonderful red hair!”

Same thing in question. But looked upon with fresh eyes, an alternative (better) perspective.

Not a person exists who will have some who will love her, and some who will dislike her. Everything about you that some (the wrong ones, for you) may perceive as being negative traits: the way you do things, how you speak, your interests, your thoughts… some others (the right ones, for you) will perceive as being absolutely, undeniably, wonderful. And these, the latter, will not stifle you: rather, they will, Insha Allah, help you to bloom, blossom, grow.  

I can promise you this much: with your ‘right’ people, you do not have to try to be anything else, other than what you are. And they will love you precisely for it.

So may Allah bless you, dear reader, in this lifetime, with people who are your ‘right ones’, and may you find you are very right for them, too; Ameen!

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Sadia Ahmed J., 2020

On Beauty

The human woman is a thing of beauty. This is, without question, how she has been designed and made: beautiful. From her eyelashes to her voice, and to the soul that rests between them, the human female is different to the human male. Both, in general, have differing essences, and each are attracted to differing things, in the other.

In this article, I want to talk about beauty standards. I may also touch on the topics of body dysmorphia, eating disorders, and the like. I want for this article to encapsulate my indignation towards, for instance, the fact that some of the most beautiful women I know think themselves to be hideous; I think current popular conceptions of ‘beauty’ are symptomatic of, well… a world gone mad, taken to deceit, superficiality, and shallowness, among other things.

One of my little cousins, I tell her, she does not need to worry: she is gorgeous how she is, Masha Allah! But she says, no, she is not. Why, I ask? Because, as she tells me, she does not look like her, and she points to a girl she is watching on Tik-Tok, whose face is laden with makeup, whose features are accentuated through the use of certain poses and filters.

The ‘Instagram face’. This is an important concept in today’s world, so it would seem.

I so wish everybody could just know how beautiful they are. A few months ago, I carried out that survey thing, for which the fourth question was about people’s main struggles and insecurities. Everybody responded to this with, looks: they struggle with accepting and appreciating how they look, and this actually holds them back, they find, in other areas of life. People find themselves ugly; want to do away with certain features of theirs, acquire new ones.

What a world we live in, huh? Our notions of beauty are so distorted. This ‘Instagram face’, this template that begins with European features, takes from ‘ethnic ones’, merges them together to create the notorious almost-bionic template that plasters our social media feeds these days. My issue with the culture that this has been fostered by (and then, in turn, fosters) is that we now have humans who are disgusted by some of the baseline stuff of being human: who spend hours hating their own reflections, who look beauty right in the eye each day (when they look into a mirror) but who cannot at all recognise it for what it is.

The media we consume on a daily basis undoubtedly has a massive impact on the ways in which we come to see things. It is all quite interconnected, too: how addictive these platforms are, how much of its content we consume each day (often quite ‘mindlessly’. But it is always having an effect on our minds…), advertising, the cosmetic industry…

The truth is, looks do matter. Of course they do. But it gets awfully political, if you think about it enough: how the ones with the most power, have the power to truly influence how we view things. Like beauty. The thing about beauty is, it is meant to be indicative of goodness [and, I would argue, of Truth. We tend to see things that are unified, proportionate, and harmonious, as being beautiful. I think this points us towards a supreme wisdom, a Oneness. Allah].

An envelope, and then you open it, and there is goodness to be found. But as soon as we come to believe that only some women (i.e. those with European features, lightly infused with more ‘exotic’ and ethnic ones) are truly beautiful, we are also allowing ourselves to believe that they, by nature, hold unique goodness within them. Such ideas – pertaining to both the ‘outside’ and the ‘inside’ – are strongly linked to European colonial ideas. That white women, for example, are more ‘feminine’ and ‘angelic’ than other ones. [And that white men are more civilised and intelligent than other – the more ‘savage’ and ‘barbaric’ – ones]. Then, these notions of what constitutes seeming ‘angelic’, and how these have, over time, developed into modern conceptualisations of the infantile woman, who is at once childishly adorable, ‘angelic’, and very sexually fecund… doesn’t it all make you a little uncomfortable?

The human Fitrah does ‘naturally’ recognise beauty. Most human beings absolutely love ‘nature’. It is visually, aurally, atmospherically beautiful. But our Fitrahs can be, and very often are, affected by environmental factors. By the media, for example: what we cognitively consume, and just how much of it. These things that can acquire power over you, a hold on you, can in turn deeply influence your thoughts and beliefs.

I wish humanity would just accept its own humanity. I wish we would stop worshipping plastic notions; stop allowing ourselves to be fooled so. Whenever I come across pictures (e.g. at museums) from the past, of people simply having fun, and while looking unashamedly human, I think about the ways of now. How we dress ourselves up so much, to go just about anywhere, and how hyper-aware we can tend to be, of our own physicality.

Sadly, this hyper-awareness stops a lot of people from playing. From having pure, unbridled fun. And from bearing witness to their own inherent beauty. It makes people compare themselves (to heavily engineered images) and then come to consider themselves as being ‘ugly’. It motivates people to go on a lot of these unhealthy ‘diets’, to think about getting nose jobs, bodily implants, and more.

How did we get to this point, at which normal human faces are seen as abnormal? Where, if a woman walks out without makeup, she looks ‘sickly’ and un-groomed.  If she wears ‘subtle’ makeup, little girls come to think that this is how they ought to look without makeup [this is what the ‘no makeup makeup look’ does, in truth].

Nobody is born ‘ugly’, and nobody is born seeing themselves this way. In fact, it goes against the inclinations of the human Fitrah, to see ‘ordinary’ humans as being ‘ugly’. This would be tantamount to denying the beauty within walking definitions of beauty!

I reckon it began with makeup. With the arrival of new potential, for women with ‘ordinary’ faces to look special, ‘exotic’ and sexy: to accentuate their features with the use of substances that blacken and bronze and ‘beautify’. Interestingly, the basis of all these makeup products is the promise of an ‘ethnic’ look, a ‘sultry’ and ‘exotic’ one. With mascara, white women could now darken and elongate their eyelashes. With bronzer, they could achieve that ‘sun-kissed’ look. Lip-liner allowed them to achieve the full-lip look. Other various cosmetic powders and liquids allow for skin to look ‘flawless’, glowing. But women who are South Asian, black, Latina, and Arab (generally) naturally have these features already. So where do they fit in, in terms of how the global cosmetics industry direct their advertising and relevance?

To put it simply, white women started to want these ‘exotic’ ethnic features. They were seen, undoubtedly, as being fascinating, and (thus) ‘sexy’. But some ‘exotic’ features had been left behind, in the conceptualisation of this model: uni-brows, for example [and thick eyebrows, too. These only became ‘fashionable’ far later]. And hooked noses, and certain face shapes, among other things. So, it is almost as though a makeup template for white women had been created deeply inspired by certain ‘ethnic’ looks and features, but then, in turn, ‘ethnic’ women took from the new European-with-hints-of-‘exoticism’ model.

And so, lots of white women rushed to get lip fillers, while lots of black women rushed to acquire straighter hair. Lots of Arab women rushed to get nose jobs. Lots of South Asian women rushed to lighten their skin.

See, the entire cosmetic industry peddles the idea that no, you are never ‘enough’, never quite done yet. You do not yet look like the ‘models’ we have created. So keep going, keep buying, keep ‘improving’. 

And yes, I think ‘celebrity culture’ has played a notable role in all of this. From the beginnings of Hollywood, to the ways of things now, this culture has always relied on some people being presented as being extraordinary, very special, worthy of much popular attention. They had to be set apart from everybody else: talent-wise, and, of course, ‘beauty’-wise.

But, gradually, the cosmetics that only the rich and famous had access to became increasingly accessible to the rest of the public. And, with this ‘celebrity culture’ mentality in mind, of course, people wanted to emulate whom they had been made to perceive as being the ‘successful’. And thus, I think, was birthed these ideas of the most non-human-seeming human things being the most attractive ones. Terrifying, really.

Hooked noses and pointed chins, for example, are not objectively ‘ugly’. And nor are rounded faces, or thinner lips, stretch marks, tummy rolls, or whatever else.

I do think it is a very human, ‘okay’ thing to want to be beautiful. In general, women in particular have innate desires to be beautiful (on the inside, and the ‘out’), while men tend to obtain the majority of their self-esteem from how ‘strong’ they are (both on the physical, and inward, emotional level). But I think our paradigms of beauty ought to be more ‘from us’. Beginning with us, and ending, for the most part, with us: with the beautiful features and things that Allah has given us, already. The goal, perhaps, ought to just be: being as healthy as we can be. Developing according to our own natures (and this should be true, for us, on both the physical level, and the mental ones).

Hey, did Aphrodite not have tummy rolls? She is, then, perhaps more human than most of us today will, unfortunately, allow ourselves to be.

I worry for my little cousins, I really do. In fact, I worry for every woman – especially the younger ones – who finds herself alive, right now, in this world of ours. I want for beautiful people to know that they are beautiful, even where their faces do not fit with the whole Instagram cut-out template.

If I ever have a daughter, I hope I can teach her how to stand before herself and bear witness to the beauty that is inherent in her, a gift from God. I know I would want to protect her from these never-ending streams of media that may seek to tell her that, in terms of beauty, she is lesser than what she, in truth, is.

Dear reader, I want you to know how beautiful you are. So, for today at least, I challenge you to exchange those critical lenses through which you may look at yourself in the mirror, for ones of appreciation. When you actively look for the beauty that (I promise you) is already there, you will surely come to see it, Subhan Allah. Nobody else in the world has the beauty that only you do.

And why would you ever want to look like anybody else?


Sadia Ahmed J., 2020 

On Islam and Feminism

[Allahummabārik. May Allah bless my writing endeavours, as well as you, the reader. Ameen]

There are certain people with whom there is no use attempting to engage in healthy debate. Sometimes these people are white, deeply Islamophobic, truly unpleasant to behold. In their eyes, you are just a terrorist; this view of theirs, no matter how many facts and figures you may direct toward them, is unlikely to ever change. And then, on the opposite end of the spectrum, there are some men who look rather unlike the first discussed group – at least, upon first glance. Muslim, bearded, seemingly quite ‘religious’. They, too, are often terribly unpleasant to behold. They want to debate with you; they want to prove how girlish, deluded and necessary-of-reform you are. They proceed to bitterly call you a feminist, then proceed to take these matters of ‘reform’ into their own hands.  

I do not identify as a feminist. I used to, yes, but I no longer do. One need not be a ‘feminist’ in order to appreciate that women should not be taken for granted nor abused, just as one need not be labelled a ‘communist’ to appreciate that the welfare system – taking care of the most vulnerable in society – is a good idea.

Now, what I find most infuriating about these particular groups of Muslim men – these ones who tend to be rather outwardly ‘pious’ – is that they do not practise what they preach. They seem to lust relentlessly over women; they, at the same time, seem to despise us. I know people who, pretty much all they do is: praise Allah (SWT) – the most noble of things to do – and then proceed to ceaselessly complain about women. Women: the root of all evil, for them. And, yes, misogynists certainly have their equal but opposite counterparts among women. “All men are trash!” some women are known, religiously, to complain.

Some Muslim men, though, undoubtedly do it right. They are evidently soft-hearted, but they are still very masculine. They have a sense of protective jealousy over female relatives, but they are not so weak and insecure on the inside that they will blame the women under their care for the faults of others, nor do they seek to feign excessive levels of authority over women, in order to compensate for such insecurities. These particular men – the Good Ones – do their parts. They are not hypocrites; they are Haleem: gentle, mild, patient, understanding, able to regulate their anger. They understand that they will never be able to fully empathise with the struggles that women may face, but they do not downplay these struggles., either. That is what we (well, I mean I) truly like to see: men who are deeply comfortable in their own masculinity. Comfortable enough to be strong, polite, open-minded. See, healthy masculinity does not generally translate into mindless, meaningless, misogynistic anger. Nor is it shutting down conversation by insolently and freely insulting women – acting like we are all brainless, valueless (except when it comes to male sexual gratification), naive dolls.

I am not opposed to feminism. I am simply not a feminist. I am a Muslim. My main contentions with the ‘feminist movement’ at large is that… it would appear to be intrinsically confused. A lot of it seems, ironically, to promote the ‘liberation’ of women by encouraging women towards a traditionally masculine template. We are encouraged towards hailing the women in pantsuits; who are ‘badasses’, and who refer to themselves as ‘kings’, and not as queens.

The Islamic view, then: gender roles do exist. The divinely-ordained Masculine; the divinely-ordained Feminine; they have much intrinsic value. Islam promotes the upholding of our masculine and feminine essences – these products of our Fitrahs (our innate human constitutions) – and of their associated roles. There are no rules that dictate that a woman cannot go out to work, nor any to suggest that men cannot play key roles in the upbringings of their children, on a deeply emotional level. No… but men are physically stronger; they are built differently, and they think differently, to women. Men have certain rights over, in tandem with responsibilities towards, women. And vice versa. And both parties have their respective, though often overlapping, responsibilities to carry out, towards God.

Men are meant to be, ultimately, the protectors and providers of women. The Qur’an describes them as our ‘overseers’ – a rough translation of the term used. Breadwinners: they must spend their wealth on the maintenance of their families. Women, however, have a right to their own wealth; we need not share with anybody. Men must pray, as much as possible, in the mosque, in congregation. Women need not, and we get monthly ‘breaks’, so to speak, from Salah, which last for a week. Women are vessels through which life is brought into the world – and this is done via the womb, the word for which, in Arabic, shares the same linguistic root as that meaning ‘mercy’. Men have their essence; we have ours. [And so on]. God is neither male nor female; gender is a creation of His. Some Divine qualities (like beauty and mercy) women have relatively more access to the diluted subsets of. And others, men have more access to. Unfortunately, what a lot of modern feminists tend to do is this: they are known to de-sanctify the Divine Feminine at its core, thereafter pitting it against the Masculine, in some sort of strange competition…

I never really understood what it meant when, upon telling certain friends and family members I was a ‘feminist’, they would tell me that they themselves are just ‘Muslim’. I understand this now: Islam is against oppression and interpersonal transgressions – irrespective of who happens to be carrying them out. They are dire sins. And Islam also encourages the preservation of gender roles. So the Islamic way is not necessary ‘liberalist’, but, in many ways – for example, in its unique take on female sexuality – it is not traditionally ‘traditionalist’. Islam is Islam. It is my Deen; it provides the necessary framework for objective morality. At my core, I am not a liberal (while the moral bases for ‘feminism’ are pretty much inextricably tied to the liberal ideology). I am Muslim.

Deep down, we know that many feminists will clap more for women who have sacrificed everything for top professional positions, while neglecting the mothers who choose to be housewives, and whose central concerns are to make their homes a good place for their families – to bring their children up in the best possible way. As usual, the liberal ideology in question is strongly tied to economic considerations. But we Muslims must favour the spiritual ones, before anything. Love of God, and tending to our God-given rights and responsibilities, and love as our central motivator…

Feminism also seems to argue that women should not do things to cater to the Male Gaze. But then the majority of feminists advocate for makeup usage, nudity, and sexual looseness. Because it’s “all about choice”. Do they not see that human ‘freedom’ is always contingent on being enslaved to something – whether to economic ideas of success and the Male Gaze, or… to God? No woman is an island; there are motivations behind our actions. There is no use in pretending that we can exist outside of all societal considerations and such. And for Muslims at least, it is far more meaningful to submit before God, in lieu of whatever else before the people…

As Muslim women, for instance, we really should stop responding to questions like those pertaining to our headscarves with, “Because it’s my choice”. No – we observe the Hijab because we are enslaved not to our own desires, nor to the eyes of men, but to Allah (SWT). All human beings are enslaved; to be enslaved to God is the most noble avenue for our human inclinations towards servitude. 

And, yes, ‘intersectional’ feminism does exist. But I would argue that this branch of feminism is the most deeply confused one. It started off by saying “Yes, ALL women!”. That is, Hijabi women, black women, white women, disabled women – and ‘yes’ to how they might each respectively choose to live their lives… But then it subsumed the efforts of LGBT movements, and those of race-based movements, sexual ‘liberation’, pro-abortion-no-matter-what, and even some movements that pertained to the liberation of men under certain circumstances. [So… why continue to label it ‘feminism’, which linguistically implies a focus on women]?

Anti-oppression. This is part of Islam. But anti-oppression… in line with God-given guidelines and commands. 

Gendered transgressions that are not in line with the Islamic way of life include domestic violence, certainly. But, for example, sexual irresponsibility is not to be promoted either, according to us; this, in its own way, is a transgression.

And on the topic of well-known statistics like how ‘women make seventy-six cents to every man’s dollar’: well, promulgating this statistic in isolation leads to the overlooking of much nuance. Take, for example, the fact that many women choose to only carry out part-time paid work, and many leave their jobs for extended periods of time in order to look after their growing families. What’s more, the Islamic view is, as aforesaid, that men and women are different. Men have varying attitudes, physiques, motivations, and responsibilities in comparison to women. Our goal here is not to be ‘equal’ in terms of the things we are and do, to them. Nor is our goal, here, to be ‘free’. Relatively free, sure, from oppression and such, but we also have religiously imposed limits that we must not (be arrogant and) rebel against.

“It is true that you [men] have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you.”

– Prophet Muhammad (SAW) [Hadith, Tirmidhi]

The goal is to allow men to nurture their masculinity, and to allow women to nurture – and not reject – our femininity, in a healthy manner, and in light of the Qur’an and Sunnah. And we must be committed to showing considerable amounts of concern for issues that may concern women (like the fact that most victims of domestic violence tend to be women), and those that concern men (like the fact that disproportionate numbers of men silently suffer from excruciating mental illnesses and suicidal urges), alike.

There is a concept that exists that is known as ‘equality’. There is also ‘justice’. Finally, there is ‘liberation’.

Screenshot 2020-04-16 at 10.23.09
Source: Unknown.

Now, if we imagine the concept of height used in these pictures to only be representative of gender-based differences and not necessarily of the superiority of one, we see that the people in question – in picture – are different. Different perspectives and builds. Now, ‘equality’ involves the same being given to everyone. No considerations of differences, a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. It is harder for the person in the purple top to see. This is what happens when we only use masculine ideals as the template for everybody.

Next, equity. The same is being done here: we want the others to reach the height of the tallest one. Now, everyone can see. But it still asserts that the smallest one is, by nature, inferior. They cannot ‘see’ without aid. There is still a barrier. This approach does not want to acknowledge the different perspectives.

Finally, liberation. Everybody, from their own individual perspectives, can see the field. No barriers, no proposing that one or the other is centrally inferior. In my view, Islam is liberation. The ‘same field’ is the fact that the spiritual value of a woman is the same as that of a man. We are made differently, and we see things from different perspectives. But that is totally okay. We celebrate our differences, and we are enriched by one another; our value is dependent not on how similar to the man we can be. Rather, it is innate, and then it is dependent on our “piety and good actions” [Hadith].

Though I do subscribe to the ‘live and let live’ way of seeing things, I do think that liberalism has this innate tendency to trample all over the value of sacred things… humanity, true familial connections, the value of rest, the value of gender roles [for the liberal ideology, if you can convince a woman that her professional positions are superior to her role as a mother, you have won. More profits. Even if it means that the woman now has a dual burden – a ‘triple shift’ – to fulfil. See, everything that Islam maintains is sacred and of great value – like worship of God, even – liberalism and capitalism will find a way to distort and redefine, and to gear towards the generation of more profits. Nowadays, many people worship not their Creator, but their bosses at work…]

Generally, it is healthy and (to many) quite attractive for a man to be in touch with his ‘feminine’ side, and for a woman to be in touch with her ‘masculine’ side. But a man’s ‘feminine side’ is not the same as a woman’s expression of the Feminine. And a woman’s ‘masculine side’ is not the same as a man’s expression of the Masculine. And imbalances do, undoubtedly, evidently, lead to issues: issues within the household, issues within individuals, and to greater societal issues… There is Divine wisdom behind gendered roles and obligations! 

Moreover, on the question of whether or not ‘Toxic Masculinity’ exists [this is something that feminists quite often vocally disapprove of]… Imbalances in gender identities and subsequently, in gender-relations, do exist. But it can go both ways: a man may behave in, say, a hyper-aggressive manner towards a woman. A woman may become vain and prideful, and sincerely think that she is better than a man on account of her physical beauty. These things happen.

But the Islamic tradition states that a distinction is to be made between being ‘male’ and being a ‘man’, and mutatis mutandis for women. ‘Males’ may recklessly chase after multiple women; may display numerous angry outbursts; may walk pridefully upon the earth. ‘Females’ may see their source of value being solely dependent on their sexual appeal; may never be satisfied with what the male members of their families do for them; may allow hyper-emotionality to cloud their better judgements. But human ‘men’ and ‘women’ are more noble than those who are exclusively ‘male’ and ‘female’. Men and women, for starters, do not exclusively act upon their base instincts. The strongest of men, for instance, as the Prophet (SAW) told us, is not the one who can wrestle the best, but he is the one who best controls his anger when he becomes angry. And the best of women are those who can practise modesty, in person and in appearance. Gratitude, too, and other virtuous qualities…

From a Muslim perspective, women should not try to imitate men, nor should men try to imitate women. Read: the part about imbalances. And, for we women, our ultimate role models shouldn’t really be… the celebrities of today, nor those women who exhibit ‘ladette culture’. Not the ‘cool girls’, not the ‘badasses’. Our purpose here is different. Likewise, for the men: no rap artist, no footballer, no whatever should really take the place in our hearts that belongs to Muhammad (SAW). The greatest and most paradigmatic of human beings to have ever walked upon the Earth.

Islam recognises a constant loop of nature that is nurtured in a particular way. This breeds certain actions and outcomes, which in turn informs our ways of thinking. The phenomenon of gender follows this pattern: men have their hormones and intrinsic inclinations, and we women have ours. What we do as a result of them matters too. We should never be given to excess in anything, so the tendencies of any sort of ‘hyper-male or-female’ is to be frowned upon.

And, both the Masculine and the Feminine are meant to (be whole in and of themselves but also) deeply enrich one another. Allah (SWT), as the popular Qur’anic Ayah tells us, “created us in pairs”; we are meant to be sources of a unique sense of “tranquility” for one another.

We shouldn’t be given to criticising women wholesale, nor men wholesale. Individual men and women might display ‘trashy’ tendencies, but it is not a bad thing at all to be a man or a woman. It is not bad for a man to want to be shown a certain kind of respect; this is in his nature. Nor is it bad for a woman to crave a certain kind of love; this is in her nature. We must respect these differences; be extremely wary of detrimental imbalances; focus on ourselves and on our own behaviour.

There is undoubtedly much more to explore in terms of questions of gender identity from the Islamic perspective. And there are some Muslim men who are utter misogynists; they are transgressors. There are some women who transgress their Deen-related boundaries, too. And I believe in relative liberation for people in line with what Islam says, and not through things like the utter devaluing of gender, nor in the central attachment of a person’s worth to their career-based positions.

Muslim women can have careers; can be extremely successful within whichever fields they wish to enter. But these are not the defining points of our worth as human beings. We are also friends; nurturers; mothers; seekers of knowledge; teachers; vessels of mercy and of much beauty. In old age, we are de facto counsellors – wisened elders. God made us women, and in our womanhood we shall rejoice. We must try to disrupt not the balance, nor allow anyone (e.g. domestic abusers) to disrupt the balance, either.

We must oppose the traits of Jahiliyya (ignorance) which may reach us – irrespective of where they may come from. Some of these traits are, unfortunately, demonstrated by Muslims themselves, and others are hallmarks of certain branches of ‘feminism’.

To a person who does not believe in God, liberation may appear to lie in ‘choice’. And Muslims should subscribe to this principle, as we do believe that people are not to be compelled in matters of religion. But, once the choice to be Muslim is made, indubitably, liberation lies in Truth. And Truth encompasses the respective roles, expectations, and rights, both of the Man, and of the Woman.

Please share with others, if you found this post beneficial / think others might!

Sadia Ahmed J, 2020

“The best of you [men] are those who are best to their women”

– Prophet Muhammad (SAW) [Hadith, Tirmidhi]

Is Mother Nature a Misogynist? And am I a Feminist?

Recently I had an online conversation with a friend of mine, which shocked me, challenged me, and forced me to rethink my stance on feminism. In recent years, the term ‘feminism’ has come to be culturally associated with angry bra-burning man-hating women who refuse to shave, and insist on ‘free-bleeding’. The term ‘feminazi’ has become disturbingly popular, as has the inclination of people to degrade feminists and perceive them as troublemaking outsiders.

As a firm believer in equal rights for all, I am, of course, sympathetic to the particular struggles of women, especially in third world and theocratic countries, where women’s lives are seen as easily disposable, where women are oppressed in the name of ‘protection’, and where fewer resources are invested in their health and education, leading to fewer economic opportunities, less political involvement, and fewer freedoms.

When I was twelve, I called myself a feminist for the first time. Once, at school, we were asked to stand up and introduce ourselves to some visitors by stating our name and something interesting about us. “I’m Sadia,” I said. “And I am a feminist”. When I was thirteen, I arranged for a feminist group to hold a workshop at our school. I also wrote a poem for a national competition about the plights of different women across the world. I argued vehemently with people who possessed remotely sexist views. But little did I know that these actions would have such unfortunate repercussions. I overheard boys talking about me with a tone of disgust. “She’s a feminist?” My family members would make jokes about it (and still do). The other day, my cousin laughed about how I probably won’t ever get married, and even if I did, I’d “wear a suit” to my own wedding and “make a speech about how everything in the world is sexist”. Comments like this are usually in jest, I know. But why is it so outrageous – so offensive and undesirable – for a woman to state that she is a feminist?

For this very reason, to avoid being subjected to the same preconceptions and biases, I started to explain to people that I am not a feminist. I no longer wanted to be known as the overbearing, unpleasant, petulant misandrist who actively seeks faults in every cultural practice. But then I read Mona Eltahawy’s book Headscarves and Hymens, and had this fateful conversation with he-who-shall-not-be-named. I realised that sexism is not some erstwhile phenomenon for which the modern world provides an infertile ground. Although sexism is mainly only explicitly practiced (and, one might argue, even celebrated) in developing and theocratic nations, the view that women are ‘naturally’ inferior is still held by many in the west, and rather proudly, too. This rampant type of dog-whistle misogyny encourages the idea that women should not be hated, but that we should accept the ‘fact’ that women exist to serve men, and that in return, men can give us protection.

My anonymous friend started the conversation by proclaiming that “the problem with you women is that you are naturally inferior”. At first, I assumed this was just part of an early April Fool’s prank. But then he went on to explain (dare I say mansplain) his views, about how men are physically, intellectually and in terms of intrinsic existential worth, superior to women, and how our current educational systems are ineffective because they reject nature’s status quo.

It is easy to see that most men are physically bigger than most women. It is also tough to dispute that, on average, men are faster and ‘stronger’ than women. But size does not naturally equate to superiority, nor does the ability to punch someone and bruise them. In my opinion, true strength lies in the ability to squeeze a fairly large living being out of your body. In addition to this, a recent academic study has shown that under extreme conditions such as famines, epidemics and enslavement, women are able to survive for longer than men, and, of course, in all modern human populations, women outlive men, too.

So what about the ultimate decisive factor: intelligence? Are the cognitive capacities of men naturally better than those of women? Much research has been conducted into uncovering the answer to this question, once and for all. During the early twentieth century, the scientific consensus shifted to the view that gender plays no role in intelligence. In his 1916 study of children’s IQs, psychologist Lewis Terman concluded that “the intelligence of girls, at least up to 14 years, does not differ materially from that of boys”. He did, however, find “rather marked” differences on a minority of tests. For example, he found boys were “decidedly better” in arithmetical reasoning, while girls were “superior” at answering comprehension questions. He also proposed that discrimination, lack of opportunity, women’s responsibilities in motherhood, or emotional factors may have accounted for the fact that few women had careers in intellectual fields.

So, the problem, dear anonymous friend, is not that women are “naturally inferior” to men, but that for centuries we have been socially conditioned to view the notion of ‘superiority’ through an inherently masculine template. This is why we expect powerful women to dress in a more ‘masculine’ manner and to undergo speech therapy to deepen their voices. This template is perpetuated even through the language we use: the word ‘woman’ is a visual extension of the word ‘man’, and ditto ‘female’ and ‘male’. In fact, the word ‘woman’ comes from the Old English phrase ‘wyf man’, or ‘wife of man’. For too long, human cultures have fortified the social positions of men as ‘subjects’ – independent, ‘superior’ beings – and women as ‘others’, as the wife of man, as walking wombs. This modus operandi might take centuries to undo, but in the meantime, we have feminism to act as a catalyst.

My anonymous friend would probably argue that the historical degradation of women was inevitable, given our physical feebleness and our natural ecological roles as mere accessories to men. Why else are the majorities of our societies patriarchal? Surely we are naturally predisposed to arrange ourselves in this hierarchical manner, with the ‘alpha male’ on top? One might point to examples from nature to support this notion: the nature of polygamous, powerful ‘alpha male’ lions, wolves, bears and other carnivorous animals indicates that men are meant to be the most powerful members of our societies. But what about matriarchal species like bonobos, elephants, and killer whales? The existence of such species suggests that Mother Nature is not a misogynist. She is driven by the whimsy of natural selection, and if men were indeed superior to women, females, and thus all life as we know it, would have been doomed to extinction eons ago. The most fundamental natural truth is that species are intra-dependent. Women do not exist to serve men, and in the struggle to ensure our continuation as a species, cooperation is, and has always been, more important than competition.

In addition to this, the hierarchical structures that modern cultures assume are actually relatively artificial. The emergence of human patriarchy did not occur at the same time as the emergence of humankind itself, but rather during the time of the Agricultural Revolution, when we transitioned from being hunter-gatherer societies to principally agricultural ones. Some might argue that this change was unavoidable, due to the biological make-up of men. Theorists have put forth three main ideas to support this claim, none of which carry very much weight. The first idea is that, simply because men have more ‘muscle power’, they were able to force women into submission. But as aforementioned, women are more resistant to life-threatening circumstances, and there are also many women who are muscularly ‘stronger’ than many men. Furthermore, as Yuval Harari asserts, this theory does not explain why, throughout history, women have been excluded from jobs that require very little physical effort or ‘masculine’ aggression, such as priesthood or even trade, given our allegedly ‘natural’ roles as gatherers in pre-agricultural hunter-gatherer societies. Below I have included an extract from Harari’s book Sapiens:

 If social power were divided in direct relation to physical strength or stamina, women should have got far more of it.

Even more importantly, there simply is no direct relation between physical strength and social power among humans. People in their sixties usually exercise power over people in their twenties, even though twentysomethings are much stronger than their elders. The typical plantation owner in Alabama in the mid-nineteenth century could have been wrestled to the ground in seconds by any of the slaves cultivating his cotton fields. Boxing matches were not used to select Egyptian pharaohs or Catholic popes. In forager societies, political dominance generally resides with the person possessing the best social skills rather than the most developed musculature. In organised crime, the big boss is not necessarily the strongest man. He is often an older man who very rarely uses his own fists; he gets younger and fitter men to do the dirty jobs for him. A guy who thinks that the way to take over the syndicate is to beat up the don is unlikely to live long enough to learn from his mistake. Even among chimpanzees, the alpha male wins his position by building a stable coalition with other males and females, not through mindless violence.

In fact, human history shows that there is often an inverse relation between physical prowess and social power. In most societies, it’s the lower classes who do the manual labour. This may reflect Homo sapiens position in the food chain. If all that counted were raw physical abilities, Sapiens would have found themselves on a middle rung of the ladder. But their mental and social skills placed them at the top. It is therefore only natural that the chain of power within the species will also be determined by mental and social abilities more than by brute force. It is therefore hard to believe that the most influential and most stable social hierarchy in history is founded on men’s ability physically to coerce women.

This unfortunate (and, thus far, incomprehensible) shift in human societal structures is what led to the ceaseless subjugation of the female kind – the Second Sex, as Simone De Beauvoir put it. And yes, a lot of women have it a lot worse than we here in the west do: some women are shot in the head for wanting an education; others have their bodies forcefully mutilated in order to “curb their desires”. Child marriage, and consequently child rape, are still popular practices. The list goes on. I do have my own personal experiences of sexism, as do most other women across the world, but my feminism is not exclusively focused on my own troubles. This is where the beauty of intersectional feminism comes in: understanding that women experience oppression in different ways, and accepting that every woman’s struggle is valid and deserving of support. I understand that it is sometimes difficult for people (men, in this case) to sympathise unreservedly with movements with objectives that promise few changes to their own lives. It is also easy for men to accuse women of being ‘whingey’ and problematic when all we are doing is trying to raise awareness of the injustices that we are facing, and have been facing for so long.

That being said, I do not completely agree with certain views held by some fellow feminists. I do not like how dismissive some are of the choices of housewives and the existence of the dual burden, and how some people still perceive the traditionally masculine as the ideal. I consider it hypocritical that they praise little girls who want to play sport and play with Lego sets, while, in the same breath, criticising girls who also want to wear pink and play with cooking sets. I think that both masculinity and femininity are beautiful, and that a balance is necessary: hyper-masculinity and hyper-femininity are both as unpleasant and damaging as each other. My views might differ from some of my fellow feminists, but, like all other political movements, feminists do not adhere to a homogenous ideology.

The majority of us do not hate men; most of us just hate toxic masculinity and the resultant infantilisation, brutalisation and systematic belittlement of women, and if you think that these demands are comparable to misandry, then you are part of the problem. Simply put, I am a feminist because the popular practice of labelling men as superior (which has led to the extant subjugation of women) is a social construct, as is the masculine template through which we collectively came to reach this decision. Physiologically speaking, cisgender males and females are different, but in terms of value, we should be seen as equal. And if supporting this idea – if pressing for the human rights of my sisters across the globe to be recognised – makes people label me an “obnoxious, whiny feminist”, then so be it. An obnoxious, whiny feminist I will be.


Sadia Ahmed, 2018

A Target in the Distance

This poem is dedicated to anyone who has been judged and belittled by people who do not even know the first thing about you.

I am a target in the distance,

Withstanding the westward winds of change.

My existence welcomes bullets of scorn,

Daggers of endless criticism,

Accusations of being ‘too full of myself’,

By people who cannot see how empty I am.

Take a step closer.

 

When I speak, you will notice,

How my words shake.

How my knees shake, how not a single element of my being is not

Shaking

 

I am a hurricane.

 

And you are not my enemy, for my enemy lies within me-

In my thoughts, in my past, in my appearance

On familiar terrain,

A no man’s land smothered with footprints

A dry drought land that finds itself drowning in rain.

 

You see, my opposition is on the same side as me,

And you are just a cinematic technique-

You are an actor, giving a face to the cacophonies within my mind,

A special effect, giving a voice to the monster that breaks me from the inside.

I do not need you, or your words, or your approval.

You are a mere supporting character,

And yet the only support you offer is made of brittle strings

Which falter and snap as soon as my head is turned

And as I run my hands through them, they asphyxiate me.

 

In my presence, you say you love me, and then the irony fades

And we return back to reality:

Where I am a target in the distance,

And you are my attacker.

 

But the next time you accuse me of being “too serious” or “arrogant” or “a bitch”,

I’ll turn around, and with a glint of gratitude in my eye, I will say,

 

“Thank you,”

“Thank you very much”.


Sadia Ahmed, 2017

I am an immigrant

I am two people. I am Bangladeshi and I am British. The first version of my identity stems from the fact that I am the daughter of two immigrants. I say this with a tremendous amount of pride. Especially in recent months, the word ‘immigrant’ has come to be a dirty word, synonymous with images of filthy, diseased, impoverished people who ‘drain the economy’ and refuse to integrate into society. As the product of two immigrants, I can safely say that this is far from the truth.

My mother came to this country at the age of eleven: she left her friends, her beloved grandmother, her livelihood behind, because her father (my grandfather) had made the brave decision to move to England to start anew. He worked at a coat factory, laboriously attaching buttons to coats to provide for his family.

My grandfather (may he rest in peace) first came to this country when he was a teenager. Alone and almost penniless, he travelled to a country that promised work and stability, in the aftermath of World War Two. He often told me stories of how, during the coldest winters here, he and his friends would attempt to identify their houses beneath the many inches of snow, by leaving bricks beside their homes. These simple but endearing stories reminded me of the fact that my ancestors suffered for me to have this life, and for that I am eternally grateful.

My nan’s story is perhaps the most heart-rending of them all. She was born to a poor family with six other children. My great grandmother often went for days without food in order to ensure that her children did not starve. She would tell them white lies, insisting that she had eaten, to fool them into thinking that there was enough food, but there was not. Miniscule rations of rice and lentils were shared sparsely, and eventually, my nan saw through her mother’s façade of strength. The women that I am fortunate enough to be a descendant of are the strongest, most admirable and brave people I have ever heard of, and I aspire to pass their legacies on to my own children.

When it comes to my own mother, I can see that it pains her to retell her story. Her eyes brim with tears when she recounts her euphoric childhood in Bangladesh- how she couldn’t even bear to spend a day away from her grandmother, until a plane brought her to an alien country with people who would look down upon her. My mother started school here when she was in Year Seven. She was forced to learn an entire language with little support, and even then, managed to excel at most of the subjects she took (save for History, which she abhorred). My mother worked ridiculously hard, refusing to let any adversities get in her way: indeed, she was the victim of many a racist incident. Despite this, she acquired a good job, and supported herself through college and extra training. She managed to do all this without much guidance; as supportive as my nan and grandfather were, they were very limited in their English-speaking abilities, and the family’s situation quickly became a case of my mother and her siblings teaching my nan and grandfather. My mother was her own mentor, her own teacher and her own student. She raised me to be inquisitive, resilient and determined. My mother is the definition of strength; she epitomizes the type of magnificence that only women of colour can claim to possess.

My father was also rather independent in his journey. After completing his secondary education in Bangladesh, my father worked a number of temporary jobs at mini cab offices and restaurants, in order to provide for our little family: my parents had me at a relatively young age, when my mother was 22 and my father was 23. They were still finding their way around things: around their identities, around work and around integrating into an unfamiliar society and its customs. Now, sixteen years after my birth, my father owns a successful technology business in East London. He is surrounded by loving friends in a comfortable environment, however I know that deep down, nothing will ever replace my father’s true home, amidst the luscious green fields of Bangladesh. Sometimes when he speaks of his childhood, his voice breaks and he becomes teary. I know that in those moments, my father recalls his mother, who passed away when he had just entered adulthood.

My parents and grandparents have sacrificed and lost so much, in the hope of a better life for my family. The stories they tell are saturated with pain and loss and love and hope, and they have instilled in me values of gratitude, resilience and unbreakable strength. Though I was born here in London, I am the descendant of a family of immigrants. I listen to the tales of their childhoods, I enjoy the aromatic curries that remind them of their former lives, and I enjoy engaging in the hundreds of beautiful traditions that they have imparted on me. I am an immigrant, and I honestly could not be prouder of my identity.

Look At Yourself

The mirror is your window into hell,

It is where your darkest dreams and most horrid nightmares become a reality,

You are a beast.

Your eyes are too close together. Your eyebrows are too far apart. Your lips are too thin, your nose is too fat, your hair is too flat and your cheeks look like they are pregnant.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but what if there is no beauty there to behold?

Why can’t you look like one of those supermodels with

Hollowed cheeks, a thigh gap, daring eyes, flawless skin and a perfect figure?

This is what the world has come to.

We measure the beauty of a girl by how her body compares to those of airbrushed models or how little space she consumes

But what if I told you that a girl’s beauty is not defined by her ability to apply makeup, or to acquire the ‘perfect lighting’, or to form the perfect pout?

Girls, look at yourselves.

See your beauty without comparison or a compliment or a looking glass.

See your beauty in how a shooting star glides across the night sky, adorned with a billion stars. Even the stars cannot quite compare to your beauty.

See your beauty in how the northern lights dance to the songs of the galaxy,

Or how glorious waterfalls cry tears of elation, how the trees prostrate to the magnificence of themselves and everything around them.

The same Allah that created these is the same force that created you;

You are something of the universe, ennobled, beautiful.

So never shrink yourselves for someone else’s comfort.

You take up space. You are beautiful. You matter.

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Here in Britain, we are fortunate enough to have the collective right to freedom of speech. We are allowed to outwardly express disapproval of the actions of certain governments; our favourites to criticise include North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and of course, our own government. When people criticise North Korea and Saudi Arabia, they rightfully speak of oppressive restrictions and abuses of universal human rights. I do not deny that the Israeli government has violated numerous human rights and UN laws, however I do not believe that people are justified in their criticisms when they blame ‘the Jews’ or, worse still, when they allude to the Holocaust.

Expressing disapproval towards the actions of a certain government should never- not ever- be used to convey racist (namely anti-Jewish) sentiment. The Holocaust was a very dark period of history- many Jewish people lost hundreds of relatives and ancestors to the unspeakable genocide, and we cannot use such a sensitive matter to convince people that Israel does not have the right to exist. In truth, both Palestine and Israel share equivalent rights to existence, but neither state possesses the rights to self-determination.

I am strongly in favour of a two-state solution. From an objective viewpoint, I am able to discern that the answer to the issue lies not in war and bloodshed, but in talks of peace, acceptance and unity.